Strategies for Nimble Cities: Lessons from Stepping Up, Our 18-City Project

Georgia Heyward:

In 2017 CRPE published an analysis of student and school outcomes in 18 high-choice cities. It showed us that many cities were closing the gap between the city and state on key outcomes like graduation. But while the education system as a whole improved, achievement gaps by income and race/ethnicity remained. Across the country, disadvantaged students continue to trail behind their peers—a reality that gains greater urgency as school systems prepare the next generation for a rapidly changing economy and an increasingly interconnected world.

Policymakers and system leaders need to ask: What can we do to prepare every child for the future? Do school leaders and educators have the necessary flexibility at the school and classroom level? Do they have the funding and other resources to meet the needs of the students they serve? Are they working in systems that support innovation and continuous improvement?

To prepare every child for the challenges and opportunities ahead, America’s school systems must become more agile. That may require them to rethink everything from governance to funding to the range of learning experiences available to the students they serve.

For the past two years my CRPE colleagues and I have tracked education strategies to help policymakers, system leaders, and funders understand how cities with public school choice are delivering education. The 18 cities in our study differ in size and location, but each has adopted at least some elements of a portfolio strategy—a problem-solving framework designed to ensure that all students can access a high-quality education and that the education system is nimble enough to address changing student needs.